The 10 Best Christmas Markets in Germany

dresden christmas market
Matthias Haker Photography / Getty Images

Germany has a reputation for knowing how to throw a proper festival—and autumn is not the only time of year in which this holds true. Christmas markets are a wonderful part of Germany's holiday tradition and a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Christmas markets as we know them originated in Germany in the middle ages, though they have now spread to other countries near and far. Whether you're in Dresden, Hamburg, Nuremberg, or Munich, the magic is there. Prepare for your mittens to get sticky with glühwein and enjoy chestnuts roasted over an open fire.

Plan your visit to the best Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas Markets) in Germany and enjoy the country at its most charming.

01 of 10

Nuremberg Christmas Market

Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) & Frauenkirche, N|rnberg (Nuremberg), Bavaria, Germany
Alan Copson / Getty Images

Nuremberg has an Altstadt (old town) filled with sites that attract visitors year-round, but it really lights up for Christmas.

The Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt was first mentioned in 1628, making it one of the oldest weihnachtsmärkte in the world. The market is within the main square with 180 traditionally decorated huts, more than 30 dating back to 1890. Locals fondly call the market "our little town of wood and cloth" as there is nothing plastic or tacky here.

Most of the goods sold here are locally crafted from quality material, which is becoming increasingly unusual. Eat a few—or a lot—of the tiny Nuremberg ​Rostbratwurst and stay warm with sweet schmalzkuchen.

The spectacular opening celebration includes the Christkind (Christmas Angel), played by a local girl. This heavenly being reads out a prologue from the balcony of the Nuremberg Cathedral to open the festivities. Nuremberg is genuinely one of the very best places to celebrate Christmas in Germany.

02 of 10

Dresden Christmas Market

dresden christmas market
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 If you are looking for the oldest Christmas Market in Germany, you'll need to head east to Dresden.

Dresdner Striezelmarkt began in 1434 and is famous for having the world's biggest nutcracker, a massive Christmas pyramid, and the largest Stollen (traditional German fruitcake) that gets its own parade. The world's biggest Striezl (the local term for Stollen) usually weighs between 3 to 4 tons, measures at least 13 feet in length, and is pulled through the city in its own carriage. As it makes its way through the town, pieces of it are ceremoniously cut off and handed out to the crowd for a small fee which is then donated to charity. Even the knife is grand with its silver-plating and 5-foot length.

03 of 10

Munich Christmas Market

Munich Christmas Market
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Münchner Christkindlmarkt takes place in the heart of the old town in Marienplatz below the clock tower.

During the market, a substantial 100-foot Christmas tree twinkles with 2,500 lights. The many stalls sell artisanal handcrafts like intricate wood carvings and fine crystals. There is also an array of live performances and music.

Steps away is the Kripperlmarkt, Germany’s largest manger market and nativity scene. Located to the west on Neuhauser Strasse, Visitors in search of the jolly should also catch a ride on the ChristkindlTram (Christmas Tram) for a jolly ride through the city center. See our complete guide to Christmas in Munich and the best things to do in Munich.

04 of 10

Rothenburg Christmas Market

Rothenburg Christmas Market

GettyImages / Elizabeth Beard


Marktpl. 5, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Phone +49 9861 4040

In Rothenburg, it is Christmas all year round. The town looks like it jumped out of a fairy tale with its narrow cobblestone streets, half-timbered structures, and surrounding medieval walls. At Christmas, the snow falls, the markets open, and it is full-on winter fantasy.

Walk the ramparts of this medieval town with a sweet schneeball (snowball pastry) in hand, or make your way through the Rothenburg Reiterlesmarkt of the Altstadt.

Go into the Christmas store of Käthe Wohlfahrt with three floors of ornaments and holiday decor. The Christmas Museum inside covers tree decorations through the ages, the first advent calendars, and antique Christmas cards. Along with Santa Pauli's sexy Christmas market and Emden's floating waterfront Christmas market, Rothenburg's year-round Christmas market is one of Germany's most unusual.

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05 of 10

Cologne Christmas Market

Cologne Christmas Market
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Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln, Germany
Phone +49 221 17940555

Cologne may have the largest Christmas market of all, with seven interlocking markets throughout its city center. The market in front of the Cologne Cathedral is lent the grandeur of the city's most well-known landmark. There is also one of the largest Christmas trees in the region (although the largest Christmas tree in Germany is in Dortmund).​ It is lit by 50,000 LED lights. Visitors can also expect to see kids riding a carousel at the center of the action. Look at our guide to the best things to do in Cologne for more inspiration.

06 of 10

Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin

People walking around a christmas market in berlin at night

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Gendarmenmarkt, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Berlin's Christmas markets have a reputation for being sub-par for Germany, but that is changing.

There are almost 100 different Christmas markets in Berlin, including traditional, avant-garde, and pop-up events. One of the most charming is at Gendarmenmarkt, close to Friedrichstraße. Framed by the illuminated French and German Cathedral, you pay just a euro entry to wander the many festive booths or visit the heated artisan's tent where you can watch toy makers, goldsmiths, and wood carvers at work. Pro tip: kids enter for free, and free entry times can be monitored online.

If you can't get enough of the holiday spirit, visit more of Berlin's best Christmas markets like Schloss Charlottenburg, Scandanavian-themed Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt, Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus, or the Hanukkah Market at the Jewish Museum.

07 of 10

Hamburg Christmas Market

Hamburg City Hall Christmas Market

Juergen Sack / Getty Images

Rathausmarkt 1, 20095 Hamburg, Germany
Phone +49 40 428312064

Splashed against Hamburg’s stately and grand city hall is a Christmas market resembling a storybook's illustrations. Glowing, garlanded market stalls sling lanterns, beeswax candles, wood carvings, and other artisan goods. The shopping is split into themed alleys, grouped by type of good. The food and drink options are cozy, to say the least—the mulled wine flows freely, for example. The best snack, though, is traditional Lebkuchen—also known as Nuremberg gingerbread. The spicy, sweet treat takes shape as cookies of all sizes. Its key ingredients are honey, almonds, pepper, ginger, and cinnamon, and they come iced in sugar or dipped in chocolate. Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong. This market’s magic turns up when the sun goes down. A towering sculpture of a Christmas tree, composed only of glimmering golden lights, illuminates the square, and a hovering Santa sleigh replica, suspended in the air, lights up the night.

08 of 10

Leipzig Christmas Market

Leipzig Christmas Market

LianeM / Getty Images

Markt 1, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
Phone +49 341 9607208

Dresden is Germany's oldest Christmas market; Leipzig is its second-oldest. It began as long ago as 1458. Perhaps its longstanding history and traditions are what give it that special touch and the classic holiday atmosphere for which it is famous: trumpeters and the St. Thomas Boys Choir make music that fills the air with Christmas cheer, from 250 stalls waft the scents of buttery waffles and chocolate, and garlands arching high above create a tunnel of ambiance.

The Finnish Village on Augustusplatz is a can't-miss. Visitors will lose their heads over the smoked salmon and mulled berry wine. Other highlights include a gigantic Saxon spruce Christmas tree, the world's largest Advent calendar, and a Ferris wheel.

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09 of 10

Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market

Ravenna Gorge in snow

Olga Niekrasova / Getty Images

Ravennaschlucht, 79874 Breitnau, Germany

Deep amid Germany’s Black Forest, comprising one side of Hell Valley, lies the snowy Ravenna Gorge. Its one-of-a-kind Christmas market is tucked below the Ravenna bridge, a 130-foot tall railway viaduct, arched and made of stone.

A unique feature of this particular market is that visitors can hike the surrounding wintry mountains—through which burbling brooks and waterfalls carve and firs dot the landscape—down into the river gorge to access it. Live piano music and light shows entertain revelers, and local delicacies like Black Forest ham, trout, schäufele (smoked pork shoulder), and käsespätzle (egg pasta with cheese) make quite the feast. German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stayed overnight here in 1779.

10 of 10

Esslingen Medieval Christmas Market

Vintage pots and pans

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Rathauspl., 73728 Esslingen am Neckar, Germany

There’s nowhere like the Christmas market in Esslingen. Here, you will find time frozen in the Middle Ages. Vendors sell the same goods they did centuries ago: amulets and knives, fruit and berry wines, gugels, and garbs. Many are in costume, donning felt hats. This is a festival of experience. Artisans and craftsmen demonstrate their trades and let attendees get their hands dirty, too. There are book-binding classes, archery tournaments, and dance festivals. You’ll find silversmiths, pewterers, knife grinders, calligraphers, candle-makers, glass-blowers, and spoon-carvers hard at work. There are more than 2,000 booths and 1 million visitors. From the jugglers to the pyro acrobatics, there’s no way you’ll be bored here.

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The 10 Best Christmas Markets in Germany